Network Activities

NW 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education - Online Seminar Series

This Policy Studies and the Politics of Education Seminar Series brings together a small number of leading academics in the education policy studies field, all of whom have a close relationship with EERA Network 23.

Online Seminar Series - Spring 2022

30 March 12:00-13:15 (CET) | From Living apart to Moving in: Policy instruments and Institutionalist perspectives in education reform research | Dr Antoni Verger

From Living apart to Moving in: Policy instruments and Institutionalist perspectives in education reform research

In educational reform literature, two grand perspectives co-exist. The first perspective focuses on the key role of political institutional arrangements in the configuration of policy instruments. From this perspective, the adoption and enactment of policy instruments are subordinated to predominant institutions (welfare regimes, administrative traditions, regulatory models and so on) as well as to broader education reform goals and expectations. Institutions are also important mediating (and moderating) factors in understanding the outcomes of new policy instruments. The second perspective, on the contrary, puts emphasis on the constitutive role of policy instruments and on their unpredictable relationship with processes of educational reform. Here, instrumentation is the entry-point of educational reform. Policy instruments are seen as autonomous sources of power with a great capacity to alter not only educational actors’ subjectivities, but also educational institutions more widely.

These two perspectives are connected to two different theoretical and research traditions, but this does not make them incommensurable. In the presentation, I will bring to the fore what are the main mechanisms and implicit assumptions about policy change in each of these perspectives. Next, I will argue that cross-fertilization between policy instruments and institutionalist perspectives is not only possible but can contribute to the production of more contingent and explanatory analysis of contemporary educational reform, which may have a special value in the field of comparative studies. I will illustrate the potential of this undertaking with examples of research on privatization and new public management reforms.

1 April 10:00-11:15 (CET) | The development of unofficial public-private partnerships through widening participation schemes in HE in France | Professor Agnès van Zanten

The development of unofficial public-private partnerships through widening participation schemes in HE in France

The presence of a strong, centralized State in France had until recent decades limited the penetration of the business sector in education. However, the challenges associated with the expansion and democratization first of secondary education and then of higher education (HE) together with the erosion in the capacity of state policy actors and teachers to face these challenges has created a favourable context for various forms of exogenous privatization. Neither the government, nor business actors have nevertheless justified their participation to education policy and practice in ideological terms. Rather, what can be observed -in education as in other policy sectors but even more so- is a pragmatic justification of their growing role, notably based on their offering services which cannot easily be provided by public actors and institutions.

The wide diffusion, starting in 2001, of widening participation (WP) schemes, based on partnerships between higher education institutions and disadvantaged schools with the former providing tutoring in guidance for transition to HE created a new ‘window of opportunity’ for business actors to extend their actions or to emerge and for unofficial public-private partnerships to develop. This presentation will present the motivations and strategies of these actors by focusing, on the one hand, on the actors involved in one WP scheme and, on the other hand, on one specific actor intervening in many schemes. The conclusion will highlight two major effects of the penetration of business actors in this area: the “managerialization” of guidance to HE, and the growing focus on young people’s employability.

7 April 11:00 - 12:15 (CET) | Internationalisation in Higher Education: Policy contexts, policy ideas and practices | Professor Nafsika Alexiadou

Internationalisation in Higher Education: Policy contexts, policy ideas and practices

Internationalisation of research and education in universities constitutes one of the most dominant policy ideas across the higher education policy space, but with large differences in the ways it is interpreted and applied across national contexts. Internationalisation policies have often made lofty promises about the rewards countries, universities and individual academics can expect when engaging with international discourses and environments. When thoughtfully and sensitively integrated into the fabric of higher education, it is a process that could genuinely improve the quality of education and research. But, internationalisation policies have often been criticized for superficial or uncritical implementation, poorly understood or operationalised institutional strategies, and vague assumptions about their contribution towards the formation of global citizens. Closely connected to debates around globalization, such policies have often been employed to serve the economic expansion of universities, or to feed into the institutional hierarchies produced by international league tables.

In this seminar, I examine internationalisation as a versatile policy idea, embedded within particular policy contexts. These contexts filter and interpret the idea of internationalisation from within national and institutional lenses in order to serve different objectives, different histories and geographies, as well as different disciplinary frameworks. I draw on research on internationalisation policies in Sweden, to exemplify the political and contextual nature of this policy idea but also its limitations and constraints in practice.

General Activities

The Network 23 Online Seminar Series was one of the academic highlights of spring 2021. This series brought together leading academics in the field of education policy studies, all of whom have a close relationship with Network 23. Over 200 friends and associates of the network registered to attend the four seminars, reflecting the huge contribution made by each of our speakers to education policy research. This series provided an opportunity for those within the wider education policy research community to connect with each other. For many, these seminars provided some relief from the enforced isolation of the global pandemic, and were well received by all who attended. A post about the series is available on the EERA Blog:


Network 23 has been gradually developing specific strategies for making the research output of the network visible through publications. It is a theme that is regularly revisited in network meetings at ECER conferences.

Network 23 is first and foremost committed to the European Educational Research Journal and its promotion, as this is the official Journal of EERA. Editors of two other journals, the Scottish (International) Educational Review and Education Inquiry, are members of our Network, and the convenors work closely with these journals to promote papers presented at ECER conferences.

Convenors also promote the research work of the network by seeking contributions to the recently launched EERA Blog and circulating information in the network’s mailing list throughout the year, in both cases aiming to make the research of EERA visible and accessible to a broad spectrum of readers. To join the mailing list, send a blank message to nw23-subscribe(at)

Future Plans

Plans for ECER 2022 Our ongoing developments for face-to-face conferences include:

  • providing clear communications, including a welcome email will be sent to all whose papers have been accepted by Network 23 with advice on how the conference works together with conference and network information
  • arranging informal breakfast & lunchtime gatherings and a social event for all
  • providing support for those new to Network 23 and/or ECER including emerging researchers
  • encouraging network members to contact the convenors to share ideas on activities and/or initiatives that will further promote inclusiveness and development of the network

We are pleased with our ongoing work to widen participation, and will continue to prioritise attracting participants from underrepresented countries.

We will invite queries from potential authors before submission, and continue to develop support including linking with and contributing to the Emerging Researchers Group (ERG). Xavier Rambla is the network link with the ERG.

We intend to repeat the online seminar series in early 2022, annually thereafter, restricting the series to two seminars each year.

We are also aiming for at least on EERA Blog posting from the network each year.

We have no immediate plans to apply for EERA Funding.

NW 23 runs a mailing list and invites researchers to join. To join the mailing list, send a blank message to nw23-subscribe(at)

Interview with Link Convenor 2019